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January 2, 2009

Near and Dear to my Heart

Sit back, I'm about to go on a bit of a rant, inspired by a story I read today in the SFGate.

About six or eight years ago, I was living in a small apartment in the South Bay, in a small eight unit building. The building dated back to at least the 1930's, if not earlier, and featured this breathing dragon of a wall heater as its only source to take the chill of cold rainy evenings.

I had gone home to New Mexico for Christmas, and my mom, ever the practical one, had given me a carbon monoxide alarm as a gift.

Fine. Whatever. I took it back to California with me where it sat, unused, in the box for quite a while. A year or more, if truth be told.

One day, I was cleaning up the place when I found that thing and figured, "oh well". I put in the batteries and hung it from my ceiling. Fine. Look at me. Miss Practical.

A couple months later, the damn thing started going off.

I was frustrated. Surely this was defective. Busted. Whatever.

I unscrewed it from the ceiling and moved it farther back.

And the damn thing kept going off.


Fine. So after dealing with the piercing noise for, again, if I’m telling the truth here, several months, I finally called PG&E. I knew it would take them *forever* to fit me in, but whatever.

I told them that my carbon monoxide alarm kept going off and could I get an appointment for someone to come out check.

Anticipating at least 30 days before I got an appointment, I was surprised when, instead, the call dispatcher said, "someone will be there immediately" and further, "open all the doors and windows until someone arrives."

Uh. Ok. Much ado about nothing, right? But at least I'd get quick attention.

Good for their word, a guy showed up within about ten minutes.

He took a reading in the center of the room and said, "I'm going to cap off your gas, you have fatal levels of carbon monoxide in here."

Well blow me over.

Turns out there was a center tube of metal inside the heater that had slid down when the house settled or from age, and it left a crack about an inch wide that was venting the heater right into my apartment.

The next day, I absentmindedly told this story to a friend at work, and she started crying. One of her dearest friends had died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Her life could have been saved with the simple installation of a carbon monoxide alarm, but it was, instead, lost.

When The Good Man moved into our place, I told him this story and said I will never live in a place that does not have a working carbon monoxide alarm.

I refuse.

I was reminded about all of this today when I saw the headline in the local paper say:

Two Bay Area families survive carbon monoxide poisoning

"The mother said the family started feeling sick around midnight...When their symptoms failed to improve in the morning, they headed for the emergency room."

That woman's good thinking saved her family, her kids, her own life.

It scares the crap out of me. Apartments are required to have a smoke alarm, but not a carbon monoxide alarm. They even make dual alarms these days, both fire and carbon monoxide. Easy peasy!

So please, anyone who is reading this, don't hesitate, don't call it "some remote possibility". Don't put it off.

Get thee to a Wal-Mart or a Target or a Home Depot and BUY a carbon monoxide alarm and install it where you will spend most of your time.

Buy two, one for the living room and one for your bedroom. Just do it, okay?

Thanks. Your life matters to me.

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Creative Commons License
All content of Oh Fair New Mexico by Karen Fayeth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.